Young Women General President Emily Belle Freeman and Sister J. Anette Dennis, First Counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, have concluded a 10-day ministry of West Africa, which began on November 10, 2023.
The tour included a visit to Sierra Leone, where the Church leaders had the opportunity to meet with Sierra Leone President Julius Maada Bio, and the first lady Fatima Jabbe Bio. They also met with Oluremi Tinubu, the first lady of Nigeria, and Ana Dios Laurenço, the first lady of Angola.
The first ladies were in Sierra Leone for the commemoration of the United Nations' World Day for the Prevention of and Healing from Child Exploitation, Abuse, and Violence. President Freeman, who was invited to attend a prayer ceremony in honor of the commemoration, had the opportunity to speak and thank first lady Bio for her efforts in the fight against sexual exploitation of children and gender-based violence.
While in Sierra Leone, President Freeman and Sister Dennis, accompanied by Elder S. Gifford Nielsen, a General Authority Seventy and President of the Africa West Area, and his wife, Wendy, visited the grounds of the Freetown Sierra Leone Temple, which was announced in 2019. Ground was broken for the temple in 2022, and it remains under construction.
The leaders also visited the recently announced site of the Lagos Nigeria Temple with Elder Jörg Klebingat, a General Authority Seventy and First Counselor in the Africa West Area Presidency, as well as the Accra Ghana Temple.
During their time in Accra, President Freeman and Sister Dennis visited the Ghana National Mosque. The tour was conducted by Dr. Mohammed Marzuq Abubakari, personal assistant to the National Chief Imam of Ghana, Sheikh Dr. Osmanu Nuhu Sharabutu.
In Freetown, Sister Dennis and Elder Nielsen visited the Child Nutrition Program pilot that was developed and is being implemented by the Church’s Relief Society. The program provides malnutrition screening and monitoring as well as education and training on proper nutrition for young children.
President Freeman and Sister Dennis also did ministering visits, accompanied by members of the Area Presidency and local leaders, in Lagos, Accra and Freetown. The Church leaders met with Young Women and Relief Society leaders throughout the Africa West Area, and they attended worship meetings in Nigeria and Ghana.
“We need to strengthen our children,” Sister Dennis said at the La Ward. “One hour per week is not enough. We need to be teaching our children in the home — mothers, fathers, grandparents, and other friends and relatives, all working together.”
On November 12, the Lagos Nigeria Ikeja Stake Center hosted an all-area devotional for young adults, featuring President Freeman and Sister Dennis. Young adults from Nigeria, Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Liberia, Sierra Leone and The Gambia gathered in their local meetinghouses to hear the general leaders. More than 400 young adults attended the devotional in person.
Sister Freeman taught that we can rely on the Lord when we struggle.
“The Lord will show up and stand by you, and He will bless you where you are standing,” she said. “He will meet you where you are, but He won’t leave you there. He will bring you to a better place — a place of happiness and joy.”
The Church leaders also met with missionaries in the Lagos Nigeria Mission, the Freetown Sierra Leone Mission, and the Missionary Training Center (MTC) in Accra, Ghana.
At the MTC, Sister Freeman quoted from Ezra 7:10 in the Old Testament and encouraged the missionaries to seek the word of the Lord.
“Open your mind to inspiration. Then you can know the answers to your own questions and those of the people that you teach,” she said. “Through your diligence, you will be successful missionaries and bless the lives of those you serve.”
At the conclusion of their West Africa tour, President Freeman and Sister Dennis participated in a youth devotional for the Africa West Area. On November 19, 2023, more than 1,500 youth gathered at the Christiansborg Stake Center in Accra, Ghana, and thousands joined online to hear their messages.
“You are part of a rising generation,” Sister Dennis said. “The Lord has saved you for these last days because you are some of his greatest warriors.”
A highlight of President Freeman and Sister Dennis’s visit to West Africa was a visit to Cape Coast, Ghana, where the Church was established in West Africa and a new temple has been announced. They visited several historic sites, including the beach where the first members of the Church in Ghana were baptized.